The most creatively rewarding period of Adam Perry’s life began a little more than six months ago as he hid in his bed, paralyzed by doubt.
His home for the past decade, Perpetual Groove, the Athens-based jam band with a fervent South Florida following, had reached the end of a downward spiral years in the making. Frontman Brock Butler, long dogged by substance-abuse rumors, had decided to leave the band to get a better handle on his health and personal life.
The rest of PG — bassist Perry, guitarist Matt McDonald and drummer Albert Suttle — knew the “hiatus” was necessary. The previous couple of years had been especially difficult, Perry says, without getting into details.
“It was time. We really tried to keep it together. It felt like a failing marriage, where we were staying together for the kids,” Perry says. “But it was taking a toll on us emotionally and physically. It wasn’t fun anymore.”
At a meeting in December, the four agreed to pull the plug on Perpetual Groove, a decision made public with a note Butler posted to fans apologizing “for the state I’ve allowed myself to be in at shows, which have compromised performances, as well as my personal life.”
The news wobbled local fans, who would later pack the band’s April farewell tour stop at Fort Lauderdale’s Culture Room (the band’s “home away from home,” according to McDonald). And, no matter how inevitable, Perry also was stunned by the turn of events.
“I wasn’t prepared for it to stop,” Perry says by phone from his home in Athens. “When we decided to call it a day after the New Year, I laid in bed for five days. I didn’t know what to do.”
But it was at that point that Perry was reminded of some of his unfulfilled ambitions, the songwriting and melodic elements that he could never find a home for in Perpetual Groove, and how he still wanted to make music with McDonald and Suttle.
“Finally, I said to myself, ‘You say you love to play music. Well, now is the time for you to get your ass out of bed and prove it,’ ” Perry recalls. “This has put me into one of the most-creative writing periods of my life. I wrote 17 songs in two months. I’m still in that mode. I still have a lot to prove, things I want to attack with vigor.”
The current home for that creativity is the trio Ghost Owl — Perry, McDonald and Suttle — which will perform Friday at the Funky Biscuit in Boca Raton, its first headlining concert in South Florida (the band performed briefly after Perpetual Groove’s farewell set at the Culture Room in April).
The new direction could not be more stark: In place of Perpetual Groove’s jazzy guitar jams that, in a club, might meander into more than 20 minutes of Jerry Garcia-lovin’ glory, Ghost Owl offers tight cascades of sound looped and sculpted with synthesizers and software into a shimmering hum that has much in common with electronic dance music.
“P-Groove was a jam band. Ghost Owl is not,” says Perry, with extra force applied to the last word.
McDonald and Perry perform with guitars, but each also mans a bank of synthesizers, mixing and adjusting throughout the show (Perry even does some singing). The computerized chill found in much electronic music is warmed considerably by the presence of Suttle, a muscular metronome playing John Henry to any ambitious drum machine.
Describing the new sound as “an indie electronica kind of thing,” Perry acknowledges that the three are heavily interested in new technology: Suttle has been experimenting with the Ableton production software on Ghost Owl songs, while Perry and McDonald have been seeking out new visuals for the video projections that accompany the show. The band just bought a new projector, Perry says, and put Athens artist Adam Barfield in charge of the video.
Perry says there’s no telling where Ghost Owl will take the new sound. He’s spent the previous few days listening to a lot of music from Aussie electronic-pop band Cut Copy, but his own influences are wide-ranging: Black Sabbath, Monster Magnet, Kyuss, Arcade Fire, Jack White, LCD Soundsystem.
“I grew up on stoner rock,” Perry says. “I still like those heavy-riff rock songs.”
Work on Ghost Owl’s debut album, “Say Goodbye to Finland,” will continue this month in Athens with producer Newt Carter, who did some work with Perpetual Groove. Many of the songs on the new album will be heard at the Funky Biscuit on Friday.
Perry says he has no idea what to expect from the show. He’s hopeful that Perpetual Groove fans will give them a try, but he says Ghost Owl is anxious to create its own following.
“Part of the fun is growing it again,” he says. “We may be playing shows where there’s only a small amount of people there. It doesn’t matter. We just want to play the music, and see what happens.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun